Bangladesh pediatric cataract surgery project under way

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Last March, Steve Williams of the Granville Rotary Club in Washington County visited us to seek support for his effort to obtain a Rotary Global Grant in support of the “Bangladesh Pediatric Cataract Surgery Project.”

Steve described the workings of the Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute and Hospital in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, a country with large numbers of persons suffering from vision maladies that he last visited in 2011. A previous project, carried out in conjuncti0n with the Dhaka West Rotary Club and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa Rotary Club in 2010, supported an extensive screening program that resulted in 560 cataract operations being performed.

Steve sought the Global Grant to support the purchase of a state-of-the-art optical cataract instrument for the eye hospital to replace its outmoded sonar imaging technology; to underwrite cataract surgeries on at least 150 children, and the training of eye specialists in the new technology to be able to continue the program.

SRC agreed to contribute to the latest, $50,000 effort that required partnerships between one or more Rotary clubs in the country benefiting, and one or more clubs elsewhere. Rotary Global Grants go to projects that are sustainable (i.e., demonstrating an immediate impact, providing specialized training to help the beneficiary area continue the work, and some form of ongoing financial support).

Now, after nearly a year of fundraising and administrative work, Steve says, “I am delighted to advise you that, after a number of small procedural holdups in the transfer of funds to ensure that this project can commence in Dhaka, the following took place:

“The funds which your clubs have so generously provided for this project have been transferred to the project account of the host club Dhaka West … $33,833 which comprised the funds pledged by (clubs in) Districts 7190 (Greater Capital Region), 7150 (Central New York), and 3281 (Bangladesh) plus The Rotary Foundation’s 100% match of the district pledges and 50% match of the eight clubs’ pledges. Added to the $9,500 from (pledges by) seven District 7190 clubs, plus Dhaka West’s own pledge of $6,667, the project’s total of $50,000 is now available for the project to proceed.”

Steve has promised to update as as the cataract surgery project goes forward.



Meeting of 3/2/17: ‘Bangladesh Pediatric Cataract Surgery’

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-10-54-pmMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
March 2, 2017


HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Today marked the 57th  birthday of our club, chartered on March 2, 1960. Hooray for us!

Members Attending (14): Debbie Rodriguez, Bill Dowd, Jim Leyhane, Becky Raymond, Phil Kellerman, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Ray Hannan, Carol Orvis, Carole Spencer, Dean Calamaras, Roberto Martinez, Dick Drumm, Stewart Wagner.

Guests (2): Steve Williams, Barbara O’Connor.

PROGRAM: “Bangladesh Pediatric Cataract Surgery”

Visiting Granville Rotarian Steve Williams

President Debbie Rodriguez introduced Steve Williams, a member of the Granville Rotary Club in Washington County.

Steve, a retired chemical engineer whose career took him to postings not only in the U.S., but the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands, is working on obtaining a Rotary Global Grant in support of the “Bangladesh Pediatric Cataract Surgery” project.

It is the third international project Steve has worked on since joining Rotary. Previously, he worked on a clean water project for Honduras, then an eye health project to benefit Bangladesh, the smallest and poorest country on the Indian subcontinent.

To obtain a Global Grant, there must be partnerships between one or more Rotary clubs in the country benefiting and one or more clubs elsewhere, and the nature of the project must be sustainable  (i.e., demonstrating an immediate impact, providing specialized training to help the beneficiary area continue the work, and some form of ongoing financial support).

Steve described the workings of the Islamia Eye Hospital in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, a country with large numbers of persons suffering from vision maladies that he last visited in 2011. The previous project, carried out in conjuncti0n with the Dhaka West Rotary Club and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa Rotary Club in 2010, supported an extensive screening program that resulted in 560 cataract operations being performed.

If the current effort is successful, the Global Grant will support the purchase of a state-of-the-art optical cataract instrument for the eye hospital to replace the current outmoded sonar imaging technology; cataract surgeries on at least 150 children, and the training of eye specialists in the new technology to be able to continue the program.

Steve said that although much of the $50,000 needed to obtain the grant has been raised,  an additional $6,500 still is needed and District clubs are being solicited for aid. The SRC Board of Directors will discuss the matter at its meeting following the regular dinner meeting on March 9.


party-cakeCOMMUNITY CELEBRATION — Our inaugural event honoring students and adults involved in community service in various segments of the community (education, Scouting, first responders, business, etc.) held at Moscatiello’s Italian Family Restaurant in North Greenbush this week drew more than 150 people. Thanks to numerous sponsorships purchased by club members and local businesses, we expect to clear in excess of $5,000 for the club  treasury to support our community service work. A special thank-you was endorsed by the meeting attendees  for club Vice President John Sawchuk for conceiving the event, with strong support from Murray Forth, Terry Brewer and Jim Leyhane. It is projected that we will hold a similar event next year, although perhaps at a larger venue because of demand for seating.

RONALD McDONALD COOKING — For the second consecutive year, we are planning to provide both a dinner and a breakfast for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Albany while a family member is receiving  treatment nearby at the Albany Medical Center Hospital. Bill Dowd again will coordinate a dinner effort beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 31. A breakfast date, again to be coordinated by Terry Brewer, is to be selected.

POLIO FILM — Roberto Martinez reported that shooting will begin next week on the polio educational video our club is preparing for a debut at the District Conference in May in Lake Placid. At the behest of Terry Brewer and Jim Butterworth, the video will be shot and edited by the CASDA production team at no cost to the club. It will be narrated by District Governor John Mucha.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-10-51-55-pmEASTER BASKETS — The club again is working with the Circles of Mercy family aid organization to provide Easter baskets for needy children ages 1 through 12. Bill Dowd, who is coordinating the effort, said he has received agreement from both Len Leonidas and John Sawchuck that, respectively, the Tiger Scouts and Columbia High School will participate in making our effort a robust one. Bill said he will email all SRC members with a preferred shopping list, since the baskets will contain more than candies — personal hygiene item, school supplies, etc. — and a schedule for donations and deliveries.

FOUNDATION T-SHIRT FUNDRAISER — Dawn Vavala, our purveyor of Rotary-embossed clothing and other items, reports that $5,100 was raised through the sale of  special “Rotary Serves Humanity” T-shirts for the Rotary Foundation, and that the SRC club was the District’s No. 1 purchaser of shirts, thanks to a core group of club members who purchased 46 shirts.

COCKTAIL PARTY — Please let host Terry Brewer know ASAP if you plan to attend “A Rotary Cocktail Party” at his residence from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Cost is $10, and guests are both welcome and encouraged to this event conceived to let longtime and newer Rotarians get to know each other better.

sangrita-friendsROTARY HOME COOKING — The Dowds will host “An Agave Experience” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8. It will include a guided tasting of upscale tequilas and mezcals not usually available in this country, accompanied by Mexican-inspired tapas. Reservations ($35) are limited to 12 guests on a first come-first served basis. Please contact Bill or April ASAP if interested in participating. Proceeds will go to the club treasury to support community service projects.

INDOOR GOLF EVENT — Registration for this Saturday’s indoor simulator golf tournament at Burden Lake Country Club organized by Murray Forth and Terry Brewer is nearly full. Anyone interested in last-minute reservations should check the club website for details.

FFFF INITIATIVE — Becky Raymond announced that the club  has received an invitation to attend a reception at the British Consulate in New York City honoring the Freedom From  Fistula Foundation (FFFF) on Monday, March 20. Our club’s efforts to obtain  funding for the Foundation was the reason for the invitation. While Becky, who with Debbie Rodriguez is spearheading our effort, cannot attend, she asked that anyone wishing to represent the club contact her ASAP.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-11-34-02-pmGIFT OF LIFE UPDATE — Jim Leyhane reported that CDPHP has pledged $10,000 toward the cost of a mid-April cardiac surgery procedure at Albany Medical Center Hospital for a child from Bolivia. The sponsoring Gift of Life will supply the other $10,000. That means GOL will have enabled such surgeries this year at AMCH, Columbia Presbyterian in New York City, at the Portland (ME) Medical Center, and in Boston.

NEXT MEETING — 6:15 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at Quigley’s. Jim Leyhane will speak on “A Flight Into History On a B-29.”

Our 7190 DG says: ‘Rotary now more than ever’

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 12.56.58 AMFrom Larry Jones
District 7190 Governor

In just the last few weeks, we’ve all added new phrases to our everyday language: Flatten the curve, social distancing, and high risk behavior (not staying at home). Our society is in upheaval, but for now we all seem to be taking things in stride.  Our attitude toward our own health drives every decision we make.

Rotary clubs have stopped meeting everywhere, except online. In fact, most clubs that have figured out how to use tools like the online conferencing service called Zoom to stay connected. Clubs are learning and adapting to this new reality.

While the obvious choice of clubs is to use social media and digital platforms to stay in touch, clubs increasingly are finding new service opportunities and developing deeper connections to their communities via the worldwide web. In the spirit of Rotary’s founder, Paul Harris, clubs must “evolve to stay relevant.”

For instance, one Rotary club organized a fundraising effort so service people from the restaurant where they take their weekly meal received extra funds to see them through.

Many clubs are donating restaurant-prepared meals to first responders at hospitals, nursing homes, police and fire stations, and in so doing they are helping to keep restaurants cooking.

Other clubs are organizing efforts to provide concierge service to seniors concerned about grocery shopping. Another club has organized members to reach out to 3 to 5 isolated senior citizens each day to ascertain their health and provide emotional support.

Globally, the Rotary Foundation has opened up special grant opportunities for COVID-19 related funding, and the partnerships and decades of technical work that has been done to surveil the polio virus are being marshaled to help track and defeat the coronavirus.

In Bangladesh, Rotarians have organized to create 10,000 units of hand sanitizer which were distributed free to the communities they serve.

In every community, in more ways than you can imagine, Rotarians are making a difference during this extraordinarily challenging time.

It’s simple, really.  If you belong to an organization modeled on the principle of “Service Above Self” it is not surprising to find Rotarians running toward a disaster with innovative ideas and boundless energy.

More than ever, perhaps, the world needs Rotary, and Rotary needs you. If you think what we do is important, please reach out to me. Let’s talk about getting you involved.

Who are the global visitors to our website?

Rotary PassportThe SRC website is regularly visited by club members seeking calendar items, event information, contact data, etc. But, those are not its only visitors. So far this year we have welcomed 359 visitors (no doubt a few of them repeats) from 40 countries.

We get the most visits from Nigeria (60), followed by the United Kingdom (32), and South Africa (21).

A quick review of our statistics for 2019 show visitors from the following, listed alphabetically:

• Australia (9)
• Bangladesh (8)
• Brazil (3)
• British Virgin Islands (2)
• Bulgaria (1)
• Canada (11)
• China (21)
• Colombia (2)
• Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast (1)
• Czech Republic (2)
• Egypt (4)
• France (6)
• Germany (14)
• Hong Kong (1)
• India (33)
• Indonesia (5)
• Israel (5)
• Ireland (19)
• Japan (7)
• Jordan (4)
• Kenya (14)
• Lebanon (2)
• Malaysia (3)
• Netherlands (6)
• New Zealand (8)
• Nigeria (60)
• Pakistan (8)
• Philippines (19)
• Portugal (3)
• Russia (2)
• Serbia (1)
• South Africa (21)
• Sri Lanka (5)
• Sweden (2)
• Switzerland (1)
• Togo (1)
• Uganda (6)
• United Arab Emirates (1)
• United Kingdom (32)
• Zimbabwe (6)

Here’s where ShelterBox is providing ongoing aid

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ShelterBox’s continually shifting emergency aid operations continue as one disaster after another hits around the globe.

The organization not only arrives as a temporary help in areas hit by tornadoes, earthquakes, landslides, and the like, it works in a number of areas on an ongoing basis. Here is the latest of its periodic reports on the latter:


Monsoon Flooding: Since July 7, heavy monsoon rains have triggered flooding in low lying areas of Bangladesh, leaving one-third of the country under water. Four distributions have been carried out, sheltering 745 families this year so far. ShelterBox has responded to Bangladesh five different times for flooding and/or displaced populations. We’ve sheltered more than 9,100 families here.


Conflict: ShelterBox has been responding to Syria since 2012. We’ve helped shelter more than 50,000 families, and we now are preparing winterized distributions.


Conflict: Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes because of violent conflicts and climate change. ShelterBox has responded to Ethiopia three times due to complex emergencies, sheltering more than 3,500 families.


Drought: Severe drought is devastating thousands of families in Somaliland. The drought has killed up to 80% of the region’s livestock, forcing families who rely on farming them to leave their homes in search of basic services and alternative livelihoods. ShelterBox has sheltered more than 4,000 families since 2017.

• LAKE CHAD BASIN (Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon)

Terrorism: The violent rise of the insurgent terrorist group Boko Haram began in Nigeria in 2009.  Since then, 2.4 million families have fled their homes.  ShelterBox has sheltered more than 11,000 families since 2015.

ShelterBox in action in Bahamas, elsewhere

Here’s the latest activity report from ShelterBox regarding Hurricane Dorian and the resulting confusion in the aftermath of such a devastating occurence, and other disasters around the globe.

“It’s looking increasingly likely that we will be supporting families in the Bahamas with aid such as tarpaulins and shelter kits.

T”he team still is working hard to clarify where the gaps are and understand who needs help, where those families are, and what kind of support is most needed. This includes traveling to the worst-affected areas and coordinating with other organizations.

“Understanding the number of people who need help and being sure about where they located is a complex task. With so many organizations working to help people in the Bahamas, damaged infrastructure and crowded ports, it is taking time to ensure that we make the right decisions and are able to help people in the best way possible for their future recovery.

“As well as a team in the Bahamas, we also are active right now in Bangladesh, Paraguay, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Syria, and across the Lake Chad Basin in Africa.

“While we are not accepting designated donations for Hurricane Dorian at this time, we are asking Clubs to support ShelterBox generally.  Contributions allow us to respond rapidly when disasters strike.”



Shelterbox’s myriad efforts, as seen through photographers’ eyes

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Many people tend to think of ShelterBox as an organization specializing in getting emergency aid to victims of earthquakes, floods, and the like. In reality, is shows up wherever people are in any kind of need because of things beyond their control.

To document that, four British photographers traveled with volunteers from Shelterbox to meet families the organization is helping live through drought in Somaliland and hurricane devastation in the British Virgin Islands, as well as to persecuted Rohingya Muslim families living in refugee camps in Bangladesh after fleeing their native Myanmar. created a gallery of photos excerpted from their work. Click here to view it.


Meeting of 2/1/18: ‘Brookview Station Winery’

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-10-54-pmMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
February 1, 2018

Members Attending (13): Roberto Martinez, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Debbie Rodriguez, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Dick Drumm, Julius Frankel, Bill Dowd, Phil Kellerman, Ray Hannan, Terry Brewer, Jim Leyhane.

Guests (1): Sue Goold Miller, Brookview Station Winery & Goold Orchards.


OPENING — President Roberto Martinez welcomed attendees. He also “treated” us to photos of the aftermath of his black-ice car accident on his steep, winding driveway. All airbags deployed, one tree was damaged, one vehicle was caved in, but no one was hurt.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 4.13.48 PMROTARY HOME COOKING MENUS– Next up in the member-hosted series will be “A Greek Evening” at the Calamaras residence on Saturday, February 17. The menu will include leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, green beans a la Grecque, Greek salad, and — but not limited to — homemade baklava and other assorted sweets. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres at 5 p.m., dinner at 6. Then, on Saturday, March 24, the Brewer residence will be the site of a “Cocktail Social” open to all Rotarians and family members. Terry says the time frame will be 6 to 10 p.m., and cost will be $10-20 per family. The evening will include a beer tasting, a wine tasting, and team trivia. Please be sure to contact Dean Calamaras ASAP if you are interested in attending the February dinner, and Terry if you are interested in the March social. … Two other events, neither of which have specific dates or themes yet, will be in April at the Forth residence, and in May at the Martinez residence in cooperation with Jim Leyhane.

INDOOR GOLF TOURNEY — Murray Forth reported that registration for the scheduled February 10 event at Burden Lake Country Club is very weak. At this point, we have only four teams signed up. Consideration is being given to moving the event to March.

SRC Bowling LogoBOWLING FOR VETS –– Jim Leyhane reports that plans are advancing for the March 4 fundraiser at the East Greenbush Bowling Center. A principal recipient will be the Bell Top School’s project to purchase a support dog to be trained for a military veteran in need. Other funds will go to various veterans-related efforts. Bell Top is issuing a challenge to other schools in the East Greenbush Central School District to participate. In addition, the new Rotaract club we are sponsoring at the UAlbany School of Public Health plans to participate. Bill Dowd is creating a flyer for the event and will distribute it to the club members. We will need to sell lane sponsorships, and will need desk volunteers to work the event. See Jim if you are available.

CLYNK CONTAINER REDEMPTIONS — Bill Dowd reported that he expects to have plastic collection bags and barcoded stickers available for members at next week’s meeting to get the fundraising effort going. He also will provide a “cheat sheet” to all members explaining the process of collecting and redeeming bottles and cans at local Hannaford supermarket dropoff stations. A supply of bags and stickers also will be provided at the Third Thursday breakfast meeting on February 15.

PEDIATRIC CATARACT PROJECT — Project lead Sean Williams of the Granville Rotary Club notified us that the project to which we contributed has gotten under way in Bangladesh. Click here for details.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 3.13.31 PMYMCA MIRACLE LEAGUE DINNER — Organizer Shannon Romanowski still is in need of volunteers to help with the Sunday, February 11, event at the Greenbush YMCA. It is a cooperative effort of the Y, SRC, Rotaract, and the Kiwanis. She needs people for a variety of chores at different times, including food prep, serving and cleanup. If you can help, please email Shannon at or call her at 518-477-2570, extension 1200, as soon as possible.

MISCELLANY — Rotary is planning a “World Affairs Seminar” at Carroll University in Wisconsin in June. Earlybird registration deadline is February 28. Details of the event and registration requirements are available by clicking here. … We received a thank-you note for our financial support of the Freedom From Fistula Foundation. … We again will address the committee restructuring process at our February 22 meetings. Roberto will send out a note to members asking for people to indicate the committees on which they would like to serve. … We will have a Maple Hill High School student,Olivia Sterantino, participating in a short-version Rotary Youth Exchange visit to a country to be decided. Because it is a short-term visit, SRC will not be required to host a student from abroad as a quid pro quo. Olivia will attend our dinner meeting next week. … A reminder that we still have various items of club merchandise for sale — freezer tote bags, branded mugs, shirts, etc. See Roberto or Murray if interested. We also have received a $250 grant from the District to help with the tote bag project. … Terry Brewer and Ray Hannan will attend the next District Membership Committee workshop, scheduled for next Tuesday, Anyone else who is interested in participating is asked to contact Terry.

NEXT MEETING — 6:15 p.m. Thursday, February 8, at Quigley’s The speaker will be Kelly Walborn, a three-time cancer survivor.

PROGRAM: “The Evolution of Brookview Station Winery”

Sue Goold Miller displays some Brookview Station Winery products.

Pat Bailey introduced our guest speaker, Sue Goold Miller, co-owner of Goold Orchards and its companion Brookview Station Winery in Castleton.

Sue described the operation of the 108-year-old farm founded by her grandparents. It has evolved from being strictly an apple orchard to growing all types of fruits and adding a winery operation 12 year ago.

She and her husband, Ed Miller — the winemaker — recognized the financial need to diversify their business and taught themselves from a book how to make basic wine. They started by making a wine called Whistle Stop White from their estate-grown apples, producing a modest 350 bottles with the help of a U.S. Department of Agriculture startup grant. In a quirk of timing, they received the grant and their state winery license on the same day.

The passage of the state’s Farm Winery Bill and subsequent relaxation on some state regulations have helped the business grow, as has the addition of such cold-weather-hardy grapes as Frontenac, Marechel Foche, and Marquette they now grow. Ed also makes a variety of wines by purchasing stock from other providers, usually from throughout the Hudson Valley region, and sometimes buying other producers’ wines and tweaking them to make a different expression. They also now make a varieties of hard ciders.

Marketing is a major part of becoming known to consumers, and Brookview has employed the use of such things as dogs and historic local sites on their labels. They also have won numerous medals in wine judgings, although Sue noted that care must be exercised in entering competitions because of the prohibitive costs of some of them

She said consideration is being given to adding food to the farm’s tasting room offerings, and discussions have been held with a variety of chefs. She also recently catered a wine dinner for 35, and may do more such events.

Sue finished her presentation by leading us in a tasting of several Brookview beverages such as the Whistle Stop White semi-dry apple wine; Pomona a semi-sweet wine made from apples and pears that are crushed together then fermented; a Frontenac, a Moonlight Marquette red, and several ciders.


ShelterBox aiding Asian refugee flood

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A Rohingya refugee slum in Bangladesh.

We usually hear about ShelterBox providing disaster relief to areas around the globe battered by floods, earthquakes, monsoons and other natural disasters. But, religious, sectarian and ethnic terrorism continues creating hordes of refugees in need of help.

The latest such situation is in Bangladesh where roughly a half-million Rohingya refugees have poured over the border of the South Asian country fleeing military violence against their ethnic group in neighboring Myanmar (Burma) and are living in squalor in makeshift camps.

There are more than a million Rohingya in Myanmar, but since the 1980s they have not been allowed to have citizenship in their own country. They often are referred to as the world’s most persecuted minority.

Liz O’Dell, who has volunteered for 18 Shelterbox deployments in various parts of the world, says this camp (seen above) is “one of the most shocking” she ever has seen. The squalor is apparent at just a glance. Click here for her video report.

Click here for background on the refugee crisis.

Click here for background on the Rohingya people.

ShelterBox responders active throughout Caribbean

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Rotarians from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands move ShelterBox equipment.

After winding along their destructive routes through the Caribbean, a series of devastating Category 5 hurricanes finally has relented. In their aftermath, flooding and destructive storm surges have laid waste to virtually every island.

While President Trump’s visit today to Puerto Rico is garnering virtually all the news media attention in the region because U.S. aid efforts are concentrated on PR and the American Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John), relief efforts quietly but effectively continue throughout the Caribbean.

According to ShelterBox officials, for example, hundreds of sets of tents and ShelterKits have been distributed from an operations base on Antigua to the islands of St. Kitts, St. Barts, Barbuda, Dominica, St. Martin, the Dominican Republic,  the British Virgin Islands, and elsewhere.

“We have a variety of aid in the Caribbean, so we can tailor our response to best support different communities,” ShelterBox says. “On some islands, there will be the natural resources available to quickly rebuild homes with the help of a ShelterKit. Elsewhere, our tents will be the best option, creating a warm, safe home while the long clean-up process takes place.

“But, it’s not just the Caribbean that has been affected by extreme weather. Torrential flooding in places like Bangladesh, and quakes, high winds and other natural disasters in various parts of Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, have left communities in urgent need of aid.

“Our teams are on the ground in both countries now, but the need is overwhelming. We’re impatient to respond wherever we’re needed in the world, but we need your help.”

Any members of the Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club who are interested in donating to ShelterBox’s general fund to support its disaster relief work is asked to contact Bill Dowd, the club’s ShelterBox Liaison Officer, for details on how to do so.